© The Walt Disney Company (Germany) GmbH

Arielle, die Meerjungfrau (The Little Mermaid)
U.S.A. 2023

Opening 25 May 2023

Directed by: Rob Marshall
Writing credits: David Magee, Hans Christian Andersen, Ron Clements, John Musker
Principal actors: Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem, Jude Akuwudike

With its raging tempestuous ocean above, spectacular colors, diving and floating creatures, Sea-King, Sea-Witch, and mermaids below the opening sequence sets the mood for this delightful live-action adventure. Way back in 1837, Hans Christian Anderson (H.C.A.) penned the now classic story of Den lille havfrue (The Little Mermaid) for a children’s fairy tales’ collection. He conjured this fanciful tale of a submerged kingdom with a Meer-König (Sea-King [Meer means sea]) whose youngest daughter, a Meerjungfrau (mermaid), is willing to sacrifice her life for a human soul. The original story has been poked, prodded, written about, analyzed, and suitably adapted to about every branch of the arts. Disney’s initial development of H.C.A.’s fairytale began in 1930, releasing its first animated rendition in 1989 as a romantic musical, thus removing H.C.A.’s Victorian-era religious/morality spin, i.e., scary, dark, tragic tones.

King Triton (Javier Bardem) wants all seven daughters (Lorena Andre, Simone Ashley, Kajsa Mohammar, Nathalie Sorrell, Sienna King, Karolina Conchet) present for Atlantica's big event but, unsurprisingly, Ariel is missing, and he holds Sebastian (Daveed Diggs, voice) responsible. His youngest and dearest, Ariel’s curiosity is insatiable for newfangled discoveries, sights and sounds, and—to his chagrin—terra firma and humans. Triton’s disgraced sister Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) hovers in the background hoping to sucker-grab power and Atlantica. Meanwhile, Ariel (Halle Bailey) and best friend Flounder (Jacob Tremblay) are having an adventure in a shipwreck among its treasures. Concurrently, aboard a sailing vessel Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) and Grimsby (Art Malik), his butler/confidant, are forced to abandon ship by a fast-moving storm; a prying Ariel saves the prince in distress. Then Ursula-cum-Sea Witch suckers Ariel into a wretched trade-off; Ariel lands in the castle, meets Queen Selina (Noma Dumezweni) and finds Eric as Sebastian keeps his eyes on her/them, and Ariel’s squawky, birdbrained friend Scuttle (Awkwafina) joins in. When all seems lost, Ariel, helped by flying, diving, and crab-walking friends plus that skipper, rights a wrong without making waves.

This remake of Disney’s eponymous 1989 animation is visually stunning, cleverly written, and its music is irresistibly feet-tapping good. At the helm, director and co-producer Rob Marshall said development began as early as 2016: "[I]t's a very complicated movie to take from animation to live-action. …[A] whole other world so you have to be very careful…” Prep work for the “Under the Sea” sequence went from storyboarding to previsualization, i.e., bit like a mini-animation film. The cast dazzle—Bailey’s ethereal-cum-minx mermaid, Hauer-King’s swashbuckling and McCarthy’s tentacled witchcraft, plus the voice-actors. David Magee’s modernized script follows the 1989 storyline, adding twists of humor re phrases/idioms, e.g., “the seaweed is always greener on…,” “squibling rivalry,” etc. Dion Beebe’s cinematography, Wyatt Smith’s editing and brilliant visual/special effects and CGI ensure audiences seamlessly glide through 135 minutes of entertainment. Disney even makes a nod to H.C.A.’s hometown’s bronze statue of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Marinell Haegelin)

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